An infection in the brain and spinal cord can be seriously dangerous. The meninges or membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord can become inflamed due to viral or bacterial infection. Inflammation can lead to symptoms such as seizures, migraines, fever, and confusion. If the infection goes untreated it can lead to even worse things such as stroke, brain damage, and even death.
The meninges around the brain and spinal cord becoming infected is meningitis. The brain itself being inflamed is encephalitis. There are many similarities between these two diseases but there are also things that set them apart.
Usually meningitis infections are caused by bacteria. There are types of meningitis caused by viruses and fungi too, as well as forms of cancer, and injuries to the head or spine
As bacterial meningitis is the most dangerous form it can cause serious complications if it is not treated. Untimely treatment can lead to brain damage, stroke, and even death. Antibiotics are usually administered via IV to ensure patients can fully recover without complications.
With over 6,000 cases of pneumococcal meningitis in the US, it is the most common form. Streptococcus pneumoniae is the bacteria that causes it, but there are vaccinations that can help prevent it.
In the case of viral meningitis, treatment is not always necessary. It can actually leave the body by itself.
Caused by some of the same infections that cause meningitis, encephalitis remains undiagnosed in up to 60% of cases. Symptoms are flu-like with fever and headache, though at a very mild range. You can become confused and have seizures though symptoms do tend to be non-existent.
Viral infections commonly cause encephalitis – mostly enteroviruses like herpes, rabies, and West Nile. Lyme disease can sometimes be the cause.
Generally, if your condition is mild, it will be the same as treating the flu; bed rest, lots of water, and anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen can help with headache and fever. If your symptoms are strong, you might have to take a course of antiviral drugs through intravenous administration.
If your case is severe, hospital care may be required. Some patients need breathing assistance, fluids via IV, and anticonvulsant drugs. Some people may also need physical therapy after they have recovered to counteract the complications caused by swelling to the brain.
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